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Opinion

Cleaning matters

Wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home if you can. Cleaning your doorknobs and light switches could literally save your live or the life of someone you love.

It’s also spring and time for spring cleaning. Open up those windows, dust off that ceiling fan (look up, you know it needs it), clean out your refrigerator and air out your bedding.

I’m not sure how many people still follow this once a year ritual of getting rid of winter’s stuffiness and stale air. I suppose it’s not nearly as common now as it used to be, but this year’s a little different. Plus, if you are home from work because it is shut down, you have plenty of time and possibly some extra helpers who are home from school for a few weeks. If you are not home from work because your job is considered a necessity, then “Thank you,” and “Bless you,” and you are exempt from the literal spring cleaning.

However, besides all the cleaning we need to be doing in our physical lives, let’s take a moment to look at the spring cleaning we do in our heads.

Open your windows

Let in some new ideas. You don’t have to change your morals and principles to do this. Just listen to the other side of things. We’ve become such a polarized country. Just because you don’t agree with someone on one issue, it doesn’t mean you can’t hear them out on something else.

I don’t know how many times in the last few years I’ve said something along the lines of “He (she, they) has done enough things that are truly ridiculous, there’s no need to pick at things that don’t matter.”

Judge what someone is saying or doing by the matter at hand, not whether you agree with their politics.

Dust and cobwebs

Take a look at the things you believe. Are they relevant, are they rational, are they grounded in something real? Blow off the dust and cobwebs. Think about why you believe what you do.

It may not be your core belief that is causing hurt. That may be firmly grounded in your faith or your upbringing. I challenge you to take a look at it, but that doesn’t mean you have to change your mind. I do believe there are black and white truths. But I also know that being certain doesn’t keep you from being wrong.

I had a teacher tell me once, “If you were confused, why didn’t you say so?” I don’t remember anymore what the subject was or the specific situation, but I do remember my answer — which I may or may not have actually said out loud, I was not a particularly assertive kid — “I wasn’t confused. I was sure about my answer; I was just wrong.”

Here’s another way to approach that: do the things you believe and your actions because of them cause hurt to someone else? Maybe it’s how you treat people because of it. Accidentally, unintentionally, you can do a lot of damage by dismissing someone due to one facet of who they are.

Perhaps they’re very young or old, or have a different view point on sexuality or gender, maybe they are (gasp) Republican — or a Democrat or Libertarian or anything that you’re not.

That doesn’t mean they can’t be right about anything. And maybe, even if you can’t agree with them, there’s a little nugget of truth or understanding in something they say. You’ll never hear it if your ears are clogged with your own agenda.

Clean out that refrigerator

If you’re like me, you have good intentions that you are going to eat those leftovers or finish that last bit of barbecue sauce. So you put it in the fridge and it gets pushed all the way to the back until months later when it is completely unrecognizable. (I would never actually do that. I’ve never thrown away perfectly good Tupperware just because I was afraid of what was growing inside - right?)

What expectations do you have for yourself that are mouldering in the back of your head, taking up space and smelling up the place? Did you have a plan in place for what you were going to accomplish by 30, or 40 or even 50, that just hasn’t happened?

Take it out, open the lid, and give it a sniff: is it still a goal? Do I even really care about it anymore? Maybe that corporate ladder you were going to climb got replaced by a jungle gym. If the jungle gym makes you happy, embrace it. Don’t look down on yourself because your dream changed. Throw away those leftovers. Enjoy the new dish you’ve made for yourself.

Maybe you do care about your old goals. Maybe that container stuffed in the bottom drawer of the fridge is a well-wrapped cheese or maybe it’s ketchup (sorry, I’m having a hard time stretching my metaphor to include a food that stays good for years, but I’ve never had ketchup go bad.) Maybe it’s time to break out that novel you wanted to write or that painting you wanted to finish. You may need some new ingredients, but self-flagilation is not one of them. If it still mattes to you, pick it up and get started, don’t stay stuck in a negative loop where all you do is criticize yourself for not doing it sooner.

Air out the bedding

Are there some things you need to let go of: anger you are still holding onto, secrets you’ve kept that are eating you from the inside?

Air them out, give them some sunlight. Hurt that you’ve been carrying all on your own becomes easier to bear when you share it with someone else. Then you can work your way through the aftermath with a hand to hold.

Do you owe someone an apology? If it won’t hurt them for you to do so, then do it. I’m borrowing from the twelve steps here: make “direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

If you can’t get forgiveness from them, forgive yourself.

Does someone owe you an apology? Let it go. It’s only hurting you to hang onto that anger. You may still need to keep a safe distance from that person — let’s not go putting ripped up sheets back on the bed. Mend it if you can, get rid of it if you can’t.

Spring clean your life, not just your house. You’ll be healthier for it and more able to enjoy what you have. It matters.

•••

Let me know what matters to you at rsmith@crestonnews.com, 641-782-2141 ext. 6433, or write me a letter in c/o Creston News Advertiser, 503 W. Adams St., Creston, Iowa 50801.

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